Mickey Rourke has signed on for Sylvester Stallone's The Expendables, joining Jason Statham, Jet Li, Forest Whitaker and (ahem) Dolph Lundgren in a testosterrific tough-guy ensemble. Which leads us to ask: Can this possibly suck?
Actually, don't answer that. Even with born-again genre slut Sir Ben Kingsley rumored to have an eye on the project, it's not necessarily unfair to calculate the sum of these parts as "clusterfuck": Guided by Stallone both in front of and behind the camera, a gang of mercenaries heads off to South America to take down a ruthless dictator. But perhaps its the optimism of a new year or, more rationally, the concept of a Gran Torino-esque valedictory with half the syllables and twice the bullets that has us intrigued at the possibilities here. To wit:
· Score One: The Second Coming of Mickey Rourke owes itself in part to Stallone's faith in him a decade ago, when he recommended Rourke for a minor role in the remake of Get Carter. Their brooding, mangle-faced chemistry was about the only thing that clicked while the film imploded around them. We wanted more, and we'll get it.
· Score Two: One of our New Year's resolutions is to explain why Statham may be the greatest actor working today — with the exception of War, his misbegotten action showcase with Li, who requires some atonement of his own. The Expendables offers a nurturing environment for that to occur. Or it will affirm a Statham/Li curse, which will at least save Flopz™-grade genre-flick mills the trouble of bothering again in the future. Win-win.
· Score Three: A Stallone/Lundgren reunion bespeaks more than inspired stunt-casting, but also the prospect for unprecedented levels of bonding between fathers nostalgic for Rocky IV and sons who'll attend anything with them as long as they can drive the car.
· Score Four: Unless you count Denzel Washington (we don't) and his Where the Wild Things Are voice work for Spike Jonze, Forest Whitaker hasn't worked with a real director since Kevin Macdonald shepherded him to an Oscar in 2006. He may not fully reclaim his edge, but if he can just anchor a group like this, we'll take it.
· Score Five: It's not Rambo V.